Date of Award

Summer 7-16-2021

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Food Studies


Minkoff-Zern, Laura-Anne


Assetization, Beginning farmers, Critical agrarian studies, Financialization of farmland, First-generation farmers, Inherited Wealth

Subject Categories

Agricultural Economics | Agriculture | Life Sciences


A massive transition of land ownership is currently underway in the U.S. as an increasing proportion of farmers near retirement age with no successor in place. The question of who will replace them has come to the fore as policy makers and food justice activists alike contemplate a shift to a more equitable and ecologically sustainable food system. Embracing a "beginning farmer theory of change," some scholars have called for an increase in the number of first-generation farmers to account for the labor- and knowledge-intensive methods required for agroecological production. Others have brought attention to the historical and ongoing racial, ethnic, and colonial violence that precludes beginning farmers of color from accessing land and capital. But questions of beginning farmers are also inherently questions of political economy and to-date, no research has attempted to understand the extent to which class and inherited wealth might impact land access among beginning farmers. As a result, most available literature on beginning farmers misses the significance of class as a driver of agrarian change. Through the use of semi-structured interviews with 20 first-generation farmers in the Hudson Valley region, the following research considers how access to financial and symbolic capital underwrite the successful launch of new sustainable farm enterprises and privilege some beginning farmers to engage in self-exploitation. Furthermore, this research implicates impact investment firms in search of reservoirs for overaccumulated capital, raising questions about farmland assetization in buoying the beginning farmers movement. Anchored within conversations around the agrarian question, these findings illuminate new areas of inquiry for understanding how capital is seizing hold of agriculture.


Open Access



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